A Matter of Perspective , available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

A Matter of Perspective


July 11, 2011

I think the older we get the more we realize that life is not entirely black and white.  In fact we are faced with a whole lot of grey situations.

Case in point: our recent Fourth of July family vacation.  A whole lot went wrong, but there sure were a lot of opportunities to look for what was going right.  Here are two ways of looking at each of our “unique opportunities.”

Perspective one: Smashing two totally different experiences (beach getaway and camping trip) into one outing is not a good idea.  Packing a family of five for BOTH a camping trip AND a beach vacation significantly pushes the limits of what our vehicle can comfortably accommodate.  There was no room to play with.  Also, when we were at the campsite we were annoyed by the beach toys we had packed; and when we were at the timeshare we were frustrated with the tents and sleeping bags that we no longer needed.

Perspective two: A coworker generously offered us two nights for our family at a timeshare on the Washington State coast.  We took the opportunity to tag on an extra night camping in a national forest we had been wanting to see.  We got to enjoy some of the great outdoors and then have two nights of a little luxury.

Perspective one: We went camping, had a microscopic campsite and it rained all night.

Perspective two: Even though we arrived at our campsite later in the evening, there was plenty of light and time to set up camp and take a walk on the nearby beach.  Oscar built one of the best campfires I have ever seen (and it may have been the very first time he has even tried).  I made two of the best s’mores I have ever eaten.  We all got ready for bed, snuggled in and zipped up before the rain started.  We were dry all night in our tents and the rain stopped in time for breakfast in the morning.

Perspective one: A deer tried to take out our car, leaving an enormous dent in the rear passenger door.

Perspective two: As we were entering a sleepy Washington coast town we got to see a little wild life up close and personally.  Unexpectedly, an otherwise docile deer walking along the side of the road, suddenly decided to try to jump through Simon’s door (we think it must have wanted his goldfish crackers).  It was pretty funny until we saw the damage when we got to the grocery store.  Then it was funny again after we took a toilet plunger to the dent and actually pulled almost the whole thing out.  Now THAT is a memory maker!

Perspective one: This is an icky tourist trap of a town with really dirty beaches, really bad traffic control, and far too much wind to be comfortable even when it is clear and sunny.

Perspective two: Our room is full of amazing luxuries, it is sunnier than it has been all summer, and our coworker and her family welcomed us with dinner and passes to the local heated pool.

Perspective one: Some vacation.  We are uncomfortable and fairly far from home.

Perspective two: We have great adventures together as a family even when we are uncomfortable and fairly far from home. Nothing says we have to stay in a less than ideal situation.  Let’s go home.

So that’s what we did.  We left a night early and got to see close to ten different fireworks shows as we drove through towns on the interstate.  It was magical.  At least from my perspective.  And sometimes that is all it takes in family life.  Same objective reality but a little shift in mindset and “profane” turns into “sacred.”

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Praying Together

Praying Together

Couples we help prepare for marriage are interested in developing their spiritual lives together, and rightly so. Many of them ask us how to pray together, and this is one area where Stacey and I have surprisingly little to offer.

We pray in very different ways. I speak with God in contemplative, devotional practices like the rosary or the liturgy of the hours. Stacey speaks with God conversationally and relationally. Whenever we’ve tried to pray together, it never seems to be a fruitful experience—it feels more like “show and tell” than anything that allows us both to experience God’s presence.

Now this is not to say that we just throw our hands up in the air and say, “Oh well!” Prayer is an indispensable part of Christian life, and should be a foundational part of every marriage, too. So where does that leave us?

We both have cultivated our own prayer styles through the years, and even though we are not praying together by saying the same words to God in the same space and time, we still do pray, together. We support each other by sharing the fruit of our prayer—the insights and revelations that come to us in prayer, or even just the highs and lows of sustaining a relationship with God in the conversation of prayer. This level of conversation takes candor and builds intimacy with God and each other, and we are at our best when we are attending to it regularly.

With kids in the picture, our prayer largely falls during bedtime preparations, as it does for most families. We’ve had a solid routine for bedtime prayer that has carried our family from toddler years to the teens. It is an important time for us to close the day together, and to share whatever intentions each of us is holding—this is one important way that our family shares life together and communicates with God.

As our two youngest children get older—both are of age for their First Communion—it is clear that they are developing the capacity for deeper prayer than just reciting rote prayers and naming the family and friends we remember to God. So, Stacey had a brilliant plan.

Just before Advent we settled into our new house, which has a separate room for each of the kids. With that new space, Stacey helped each of the kids create a prayer corner in their rooms. We purchased small tables the size of a night stand, and took the kids to a fabric store so that they could pick out the cloth they wanted for their “prayer altar.” Then we helped them decorate their altar with prayer materials—Bibles they’ve been given, religious imagery, rosaries, photos of them at their baptism, etc.

Now, each night before we gather for family night prayer, we set a timer for 10 minutes and each of us goes into our own rooms for silent prayer. We’ve seen the children take to it like ducks to water—they read their Bible, or say part of the rosary, or use a book of prayers to talk to God.

So there we all are—praying, together, each in our own way. It is a beautiful time of the day in the Noem home. I love the feeling of that silence, knowing we are all approaching God in our own way. And that practice deepens our regular night prayer together—when we go around to name our special intentions, we all share with one another people or situations that we’ve already lifted up to God.

I am confident that one day we will look back and see that this prayer practice—just 10 minutes a day—will turn out to be one of the most important ways in which we’ve shaped the life of our family. It will allow our children to grow into a living relationship with God, and what could be more important?

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A Matter of Perspective , available at: ForYourMarriage.org
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